Embodiment and Embodied Cognition

Stephen Flusberg and Lera Boroditsky

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Embodiment and Embodied Cognition

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Embodied cognition (EC) is a movement within the field of cognitive science that seeks to explore the ways in which cognitive processes may be grounded in the sensorimotor capabilities of an agent that is situated in a complex, real-world environment. On this view, the body of the agent structures and constrains the nature of the mind, perceiving and thinking are largely done in the service of action that is carried out in real time, and cognition more generally emerges from the dynamic interplay between the organism and its environment. In practice, no single unified theory of EC exists. Rather, EC may be thought of as a general research program, or framework, that consists of a variety of related claims, methodologies, and approaches to studying cognition and behavior. Interest in EC has developed among all the major subfields of cognitive science, including linguistics, cognitive and developmental psychology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence and robotics, philosophy, and anthropology. Research on EC can be found in most of the leading journals representing these fields. Some researchers focus on how cognition is situated in the real world and how it must rapidly unfold in the service of pragmatic goals and actions. This may include offloading certain cognitive tasks onto the environment itself, such as using pencil and paper to help perform mathematical calculations. These ideas have led some theorists to suggest that the mind literally extends into the environment and that cognition can be understood only as a function of the dynamically coupled agent-environment system. Other researchers focus more on the cognitive abilities of the agent in isolation and investigate how higher-level cognitive processes, such as language and abstract thought, may be grounded in lower-level sensorimotor systems in the brain. Still others look at how features of the body itself can figure into various cognitive operations, for example, through the use of gesture. EC is often presented as an alternative to classical approaches within cognitive science, which have attempted to describe cognition in terms of discrete, amodal, symbolic information-processing mechanisms divorced from any particular physical instantiation. However, even among proponents of EC a range of perspectives exist on such foundational issues as the nature and function of representation in any theory of the mind. That being said, insights from EC provide new ways of conceptualizing many different subjects, from perception and mental imagery to language and abstract thought.

Article.  15846 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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